This dastardly double feature begins with the requisite DBZ movie comic relief, with Chi-Chi wondering why Goku is actually encouraging Gohan to study for once. Surely he must have lost his marbles from countless episodes of fisticuffs, right? Nah, he just wants Gohan to hurry up so they can head out on a camping trip! As much as that may seem like the start of a rousing goof-off episode, elsewhere we meet Frieza’s brother, Cooler, as he learns of his sibling’s destruction at the hands of a Saiyan. This understandably both disgraces and angers Cooler, who immediately plans his counterattack.
It isn’t long before Cooler and his goons are on Earth, ready to defeat Goku and anyone else that stands in their way, and kicking off a back-to-back battle that spans both movies 5 and 6. Cooler is basically an older Frieza sporting alternate colors, which explains why Goku initially confuses him for his former foe. He doesn’t get to spend much time playing sitcom mix-up, though, because Cooler’s initial attack completely rocks their bells, forcing them to hide until they can jam a little life out of some Senzu Beans.
Cooler’s Revenge has a lot going for it after this point, as far as DBZ movies go. Piccolo kicks a lot of ass right away before getting KO’d in front of everyone, Cooler engages in air, sea, and sky combat with Goku, and the fists only stop flying once the credits roll. Add to that the mighty FOURTH form (like a white clad Super Shredder) that Cooler unleashes near the end of the 47-minute flick and you’ve got something the TV series would normally take a couple dozen episodes to get through.
But that’s the MO in general for DBZ movies, isn’t it? They’re basically showcases of what the show is all about that please the kiddies and keep the running time in the vicinity of an hour while raising the stakes as high as the foe’s power level will allow, and then some. With that in mind, expect more of the same with The Return of Cooler. The Toei logo at the beginning of this one is accompanied by appropriately ominous audio, a rumble that woofs deeply over the world and signals The End Times. This world-enveloping doomsday isn’t plaguing our planet, however. It’s Namek’s turn this time, which means the Z Boys are set to dispatch for a rescue mission of cosmic proportions.
This basically boils down to something one might call Cooler’s Revenge II: Judgment Day (complete with T-1000-like powers!). It might not be any longer than the last film, but it’s certainly larger in scale, and involves more than a couple of intense one-on-one battles. Cooler is all chromed-out on Namek, and he’s accompanied by an army of lethal robots that make his previous set of nimrod flunkies seem like the screaming weenies they really were. It’s stuff like this that makes Return the more exciting of the two movies. The action—especially the fight that pits Piccolo and Krillin against a dozen of Cooler’s robots—has a much better pace to it, and Cooler just looks plain rad fighting Goku and Vegeta in his shiny new getup. He may not be a very “deep” villain, but he makes for a good double dose of world-crushing antagonism.
For the first time in ages, I chose to watch Dragon Ball Z entirely in English. There are a couple of reasons for this, one being the fact that I’ve already seen these movies in Japanese a few times. The other reason is entirely due to the fact that I watched this on Blu-ray, and the English option is the only way to experience it in Dolby TrueHD 5.1audio. The dub is at its best when the villains are on stage squawking (one terrible French accent notwithstanding), but the rest certainly isn’t offensive or off-putting in any way. I’d never take it over the original Japanese voices, because those are so classic and crucial to the feel of the series for me, but the option of English with Japanese music is the next best thing.
The only thing this release is missing is something, anything at all, beyond the feature presentations. Maybe it’s just the standard wish list that accompanies a fresh format, but I tend to expect more from my Blu-rays than I get with normal DVDs. Unfortunately, the disc just has a handful of FUNimation trailers as extras, so that’s a bust. How about some commentary tracks or, at the very least, a gallery of production artwork or something. Like I said… anything! It would also be nice if they kept the original title cards for the movies, and held off from slapping the English versions sloppily over top of the Japanese. At least the presentation is pretty on point, especially for a couple of movies that are now old enough to legally buy cigarettes in most states.
Both Cooler movies have about as much substance as a box of Go-gurt, but you knew that already, didn’t you? Dragon Ball Z isn’t about substance, it’s about big dudes with muscles fighting bigger dudes with bigger muscles, and the world would probably spin off its axis if this ever changed. The Cooler double feature reinforces the DBZ status quo, and while viewing it in hi-def won’t change your life, this is the definitive release thus far. I’m sure it won’t be the last, and Cooler will no doubt be gracing whatever weird cyclops visors we’ll be watching movies on in the future (ULTRA-DEF). If they actually add some extras to that one I might be willing to give it a gander, but this is where it’s at for now, folks.
Images © 2008 BIRD STUDIO/SHUEISHA, TOEI ANIMATION